Surely dating isn’t brain science … is it?
For sex educator Heidi Crockett, dating has EVERYTHING to do with the prefrontal cortex and limbic brain.
Our brains play a crucial role in the dance of attraction. The only question is: are we using our brain to optimize our romantic experiences…
Or are we letting our primitive brain systems sabotage us?
In this week’s YBTV interview, you’ll learn how to get turned on by hacking the circuitry of desire.
You’ll learn the role played by your “sexual accelerator” and “sexual brake.” You’ll find out how your sexual response system differs from a guy’s. And Heidi will teach you the #1 way you can improve your intimate encounters right now.
What You’ll Learn
Whatever you think about women’s sexual health, you need to just throw it out.”
If it weren’t for pioneers like Dr. Ruth, we might still be measuring our sex life against men’s.
Not all that long ago, most of what was believed about women’s sexual health came from studying men. Not surprisingly, we women were the ones who came up short.
For example, 70% of men experience what’s known as spontaneous desire. They can look at an image or a person and feel immediate arousal.
That’s not how desire necessarily works for women, though. About a third of women experience responsive desire, a feeling of desire that builds in response to kissing or foreplay.
Once researchers understood this distinction, they realized it no longer made sense to diagnose women with low desire disorder. The fact that women couldn’t experience desire on command didn’t make them broken; it was simply a feature of the female sexual response.
As a sex educator, Heidi’s role is to give couples the very latest research on sexuality.
Once couples learn that sex and desire don’t have to follow a certain pattern, they stop feeling like there’s something wrong with them, and they can go on to have more fulfilling sex lives.
“What women need to do in their sexuality,” Heidi says, is to stop comparing “themselves to men or to what they’ve been taught about sex.”
Understanding Your Sexual Accelerator and Sexual Brake
So how does desire work for women?
“The other big buzzword is context,” Heidi says. “That is your internal thoughts and your external environment.”
If you’ve ever found you can’t relax into an intimate encounter if a fan is clicking or the door isn’t locked or you’re thinking about work, then you’ve know the power of context.
The right context can put on your “sexual accelerator,” while the wrong context can step on your “sexual brake.”
“In order for [a woman] to take her foot off the sexual brake and for her desire to begin and put her foot on the sexual accelerator,” Heidi explains,”her limbic brain needs to calm down and the context has to be right.”
So what does the right context look like?
© Heidi Crockett
You need to be in a securely attached relationship, you should feel safe, and the setting should be “highly erotic”—whatever that means to you.
“It’s true that some women really get turned on by flowers and candlelight, but some women don’t,” Heidi says.
The Best Turn-on
You may have heard that the biggest sex organ is the brain.
If so, you won’t be surprised by what Heidi has to share.
“The #1 way that a woman can improve her orgasms right now is by what she thinks about her body and her attitudes towards sex,” she says.
It would be nice if we could wave a magic wand and change society and the media so that all body types are celebrated and all messaging is sex-positive, but what affects you most is not what’s said “out there.” It’s what you say to yourself.
If someone is with a partner who’s saying a lot of critical things about them, that in and of itself is a bad thing … but it is really the things that women say in their heads that affect their ability to enjoy sex.”
How can you make your inner voice more positive and empowering?
“The first thing you don’t do is: you don’t criticize yourself for criticizing yourself!” Heidi says.
Next, you want to “think of your sexuality as a garden. Those bad thoughts are like weeds, and you want to plant a new thought.”
If a bad thought creeps up, metaphorically “pull it” and plant a positive thought in its place.
Feeling positively towards your body can also include cultivating the ability to get turned on by yourself.
“When I work with couples, I’ll make sure each individual is able to find sexual pleasure on their own, and then they can find it together as a couple,” Heidi says.
When Should You Sleep with Him?
I have two protective principles in my Neuroscience of Dating book. The first is, ‘Don’t make yourself financially vulnerable.’ The second is, ‘Don’t make yourself sexually vulnerable.'”
Making a decision on the spur of the moment to sleep with someone can make you sexually vulnerable—unless you’ve thought through your criteria well beforehand.
Making a good decision about whether to sleep with someone for the first time starts before you even get into that situation. Think about what rules you’ll use to make that decision. Know what’s right for you ahead of time.
“Part of it is that we don’t think ahead of time,” Heidi says. “If the guy is good-looking enough or the situation’s just right enough, we might decide we want to have sex, but we’re not really sure.”
And if you’re lonely or you just want to be wanted, think twice.
“We want to make those choices from a really empowered, secure place inside ourselves,” Heidi says, “not out of fear.”
The Neuroscience of Dating
Heidi’s book The Neuroscience of Dating “explains the principles of what’s called interpersonal neurobiology.”
Even if you’re not interested in dating, the book is a useful guide to boosting your emotional intelligence. It “is all about how these different and competing functions of the nervous system and what you can do consciously to integrate them.”
You can also find more educational materials on Heidi’s website.
To get a taster of her work, try this free meditation that Heidi created to help diffuse the emotional charge over a situation, like anxiety over a first date.
Jump to Topics of Interest
1:45 Why Dr. Ruth is such an inspiration
2:54 Spontaneous vs. responsive desire
5:28 The importance of context
6:27 3 conditions of great sex
7:59 What you say to yourself matters
9:40 How to stop negative self-talk
11:01 Develop a relationship with your erotic thoughts
12:34 Making the decision to sleep with someone for the first time
17:28 The Neuroscience of Dating
19:41 Free meditation
Heidi Crockett LCSW, CST, CSE, is a licensed psychotherapist and professional speaker on relational neuroscience. She has her MSW from the University of Georgia, post-graduate training in sexual health from the University of Michigan, and AASECT-certification in Sex Therapy and Sexuality Education. She is the author of Caregiver Stress: Neurobiology to the Rescue and The Neuroscience of Dating. Currently she works in private practice and teaches at the TrueNorth Health Center. Learn more about Heidi.